The man who leans in ‘real close’
Pandemic, or no pandemic, you guess the man who leans in real close has always leaned in real close.
You’re pretty sure (like… 92.5% sure?) that the man who leans in real close leans in real close like his father did, and like his father’s father did, and like his father’s father’s father did…
Not that men who lean in real close run in packs. Down to the smithy of their soul, these men are forged to work alone. It’s probably a little awkward when two men who lean in real close step on each other’s toes in the wild.
After being raised to be a man who leans in real close, the man who leans in real close — yes, the chap in your life, for we all have one—would have instinctively known it was time to venture out into the world and find his own habitat (preferably one filled with unwitting prey).
Ah, yes, let us picture the teary mother standing in the doorway of the family homestead! She has never understood the ways of men who lean in real close! She’s seen how the vast majority (shall we say, exactly 88%?) of people react when her husband leaned in real close. Some of us cower, some of us cross our arms, some of us twist and giggle, and some of us try to adjust the angle to be a little more… perpendicular?
As a doting mother, she would have observed how her son would appear to be even more blind to the thresholds of personal space.
But where is that ‘threshold’? Well, the cultural anthropologist Edward T. Hall made this chart to demonstrate where people usually stand for various communications:
The man who leans in real close, when he sees you, say, in the supermarket holding two bags of muesli, wondering which is the superior bag of muesli, he moves like a predator through the public space. You, the dopey prey, you’re frozen. The surroundings all melt away as the man who leans in real close corners you in the social space. If you could watch all of this in a documentary with David Attenborough narrating, you, like David, could only admire his fleet-footed, seamless movement. Distance melts away in a heartbeat. Before you have time to act, he manoeuvres his way into your personal space. And now, time starts to move all slow-mo-y and Matrix-ly. The man who leans in real close then leans in real close and tells you, conspiratorially: “You know, I know where you can get some much better muesli than either of those bags of muesli. Pound for pound, it’s the best muesli in town…”
Unfortunately, when the man who leans in real close leans in real close, you can’t fully pay attention to the details of what he is saying. Instead of absorbing what he’s saying, random notions just flash across your mind. Thoughts like: did Bram Stoker base his character Count Dracula on an ageless man who leaned in real close? Will a diet consisting of black garlic help ward off the man who leans in real close? And if you wear a mask, and the man who leans in real close wears a mask, would that mean he’d just lean in EVEN CLOSER? And more lately: doesn’t he fucking realise we’re in the middle of a pandemic?
And perhaps, looking out of an apartment window high above, your neighbours will see you and the man who leans in real close and from a distance, they’ll think, look at those two men, why they must be very good friends if they’re standing and chatting that close to one another.
Only a truly wise and well-travelled individual would look down, know exactly what’s going on and say: “I bet they’re talking about muesli.”